“Achieving Buy-In For Key HR Initiatives”
HARVARD MANAGEMENT MENTOR
Thank you for inviting me to address you at this Human Resources (HR) Breakfast Seminar.
I congratulate Paul and the other organizers for creating this timely and important context in which HR practitioners can engage in meaningful discussions about improving Human Resources, a key element of any organization’s work force structure.
The Human Resources Team or HR Department is entrusted with the critical task of monitoring and maintaining the most important resource in a company – its human capital, and how to leverage the people component…to the best advantage for the persons within the organization, as well as for the organization itself.
The development of human capital is essential in fulfilling the key objectives of companies. People drive the thinking and work process in any organization. And it is their “knowledge” and “decision-making” that give rise to innovation and growth.
This morning I will share my perspective on how to make HR an important element of any organization; and, thereby, attract the necessary buy-in from corporate leaders.
In order to gain a full appreciation of HR, it is vital that there is a clear recognition of the pivotal role that HR can play in any organization.
Too often, HR is defined by the traditional administrative role it tends to play—in the employment of people to fill posts; keeping them happy by ensuring that their salaries and emoluments are paid; and sending them intermittent correspondences.
And, sometimes, even the obligatory Secretary’s Luncheon and Staff Awards can fall flat, if employees do not feel that the company is truly appreciative of their contribution…and makes a genuine effort to address their real concerns—recognition for quality work and commitment to the organization.
In the midst of this angst, the other and perhaps the most significant side of HR is sidelined and left behind … the learning and development side of HR; the side which can provide a balance through the empowerment of employees.
Training and the honing of skills are particularly important in a world where services are considered a critical element of the economy.
Therefore, it is imperative that organizations cultivate knowledge-based workers … recognizing that “knowledge is a key strategic resource” to any organization. And, that in these times, a company will be left behind if it misses the opportunity to keep pace with emerging technologies and ensure that its employees “acquire and share knowledge.”
In addition, educational courses in HR and post graduate degrees, such as Post Modernism and Practicing HR in Organizations, have helped to create this ‘new’ employee.
Who is this new employee? The knowledge-based worker tends to be globally mobile; he or she can find employment with ease; and utilize the most available resources, such as the internet and other alternative media, to inform their choices.
Over time the definition of an “employee” and “the workplace” has experienced a total metamorphosis … moving from a worker within a strict hierarchical structure to an employee in a loosely structured company, given that today’s organizations have offices which span several different countries, with a work force including persons who work from home.
The new work force is also younger and more mobile. These employees are prepared to work from home or different locations, and are highly competitive, resulting in increased expected outcomes, and greater demand for worker drive and productivity.
Against this background of the new worker and the changing workplace, companies are severely challenged about how to pull all this together to achieve the common goals and objectives of the organization. And, HR is the critical element that is necessary to hold it together.
As such the HR Department should recognize the important role they play in helping to achieve the company’s success and in preserving and developing the resources of its most important tool, its people.
In our Jamaican situation, we find that many HR Departments tend to be preoccupied mainly with—the issues of staff satisfaction, and compensation benefits… while not focusing on the corresponding level of performance, in terms of the honing of skills and increased productivity.
A look at Jamaica’s competitive export data shows that our productivity levels are very low.
Recent data from the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) reveal that approximately 70 per cent of our work force is not certified; therefore, the country is at a serious disadvantage in comparison with the rest of the world.
Against this background, HR is faced with a challenge of accessing appropriate and important support to implement programmes to position itself to fulfill its responsibilities to develop both workers and their organizations.
In order to make the paradigm shift is important for us to look closely at HR—to determine if, given its track record and challenges, it can register success in achieving the appropriate buy-in for its key HR initiatives.
I have five suggestions to achieve this buy-in which is necessary to claim success.
One, we must deal with the organizational framework within corporations and the HR position in it.
Is the HR person a respected Executive, or relegated to the second tier in the management hierarchy? The general observation is that HR is hardly considered as one of the top Executive positions in an organization.
Jack Welch in his book Winning argues that the head of HR should be equivalent to that of the Chief Financial Officer or the second most important person in any organization.
He wrote and I quote: “Elevate HR to a position of power and primacy in the organization, and make sure HR people have the special qualities to help managers build leaders and careers.”
HR will perform effectively when it is properly positioned in the organization.
Two, the functions of the HR department must be clearly linked to both administrative, as well as the development functions. It is critical that as heads of organizations, we employ competent people to manage HR and to develop clear measurements about quality of service.
On the development side, the HR Department should pay specific attention to monitoring productivity levels to determine where there are shortfalls such as staff casual sickness.
In the same breath, it is also important to determine where there is need for increased productivity and work with production units to introduce change processes that will help; identify issues before they arise and create positive relationships with unions for the benefit of both employers and employees.
Three, the HR Department must play an active role in ensuring that employees understand organizational goals, and that there is a working and credible system to reward, compensate and remunerate persons for work done. For many companies, the appraisal and remuneration systems are not clearly aligned with the organization’s overall objectives.
By the same token, the HR Department should also open itself up to quality of service reviews from employees as a means of receiving immediate feedback on the quality of HR function to determine if the stated objectives are being achieved. And in doing so, the HR Department will have a solid foundation on which it can build to attain buy-in from persons in the lowest to the highest post in the organization.
Four, communication should be an important internal vehicle for the HR Department. Very often HR is not visible or appreciated, and so the Department must be proactive in developing accessible, credible and consistent communication channels.
New media such as the internet and other forms of alternate communications should be used to deliver the message of the organization to among its internal public … the employees.
The communication vehicle should also inform workers about the proactive nature and work of the HR Department in achieving corporate and individual objectives. It should also clearly draw an alignment between individual and corporate strategies and the work of the HR Department to attain the necessary buy-in from staff members.
Five, and finally, HR also has an important role to play in developing the social capital in an organization. Far too often the HR Department is not seen as having an important job in communicating and practicing values and to ensure integrity in all operations of the Unit.
More and more organizations are becoming aware of the importance of social interactions and relationships at work. There is an urgent need for professionals in the field of Human Resource Development to identify new ways to enhance employee performance and not only improve the financial profitability of the organization; but, make the company a place where people really want to work.
In conclusion, these five suggestions for improvement can revolutionize the image and perception of HR, and make organizational heads more readily identify and allocate necessary resources once success and achievement are guaranteed.
Ladies and gentlemen, these thoughts are to spur our dialogue in the matter of Human Resources and I look forward to the discussions that will ensue.
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